Everyone over the age of 50 will be offered a Covid-19 booster and flu jab this autumn, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced.
This is a change from previous guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommended that those older than 65 be offered the vaccinations.
It comes after the committee considered the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, as well as the benefits of combining the booster rollout with the flu vaccine rollout.
Experts hope expanding the offer will provide necessary protection to those at higher risk of severe illness and keep greater numbers of people out of hospital.
Others who will be eligible for a further dose include residents in a care home for older adults and staff, frontline health and social care workers and those aged five to 49 in a clinical risk group – including pregnant women.
The jab will also be offered to those aged five to 49 who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression, and those aged 16 to 49 who are carers.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at UKHSA, said: “Widening the eligibility for the flu vaccine will help reduce the number of people getting seriously ill and ease pressures on the NHS, particularly during the busy winter period.
“It is also important that everyone eligible for the Covid-19 booster gets the jab when invited, including pregnant women, who are among those at higher risk.
“Having Covid-19 during pregnancy can lead to complications.
“Getting the vaccine, including a booster, offers the best possible protection for you and your baby.”
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, said: “We have provided our final recommendations for the autumn programme to ensure the NHS and wider health system has time to plan a vaccine rollout well ahead of the winter season.
“The Covid-19 boosters are highly effective at increasing immunity and, by offering a further dose to those at higher risk of severe illness this autumn, we hope to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalisations and deaths over the winter.”
All eligible groups are being encouraged to take up the vaccine when it is offered even if they have had a spring booster, as long as it has been at least three months since their last vaccination.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will again be offering the free flu vaccine to additional groups once the most vulnerable, including previously announced pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 years and over, and those in clinical risk groups, have been offered the jab.
The additional groups set to be offered the jab in England will be all adults aged 50 to 64 years and secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year.
In due course, the NHS will announce when and how eligible groups will be able to book an appointment for their autumn coronavirus booster and free flu jab.
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Our vaccination programme has been one of the fastest and most successful in the world.
“Because of our collective efforts, from our NHS who got those jabs in arms, to everyone who came forward to keep themselves and those around them safe, we were able to open up our country while protecting lives and livelihoods.
“Today we have confirmed the next phase in our booster programme to keep our defences strong over autumn and winter.
“Vaccines were our way out of this pandemic, and now they will make sure Covid can never haunt us in the same way again.”